Lind­say Cooper puts down one phone and looks to the sky with another.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market | Moments -

I’m barely an hour out­side of Mon­treal when I re­ceive a text mes­sage that I’ve “wan­dered into a data roam­ing zone.” To avoid un­ex­pected fees, I go off the grid, which is not quite what I had in mind when I de­cided to visit Au Di­able Vert, a 148-hectare park out­side Sut­ton that was named for a French ex­pres­sion mean­ing “very far away.” But as I pull into the folksy Ho­tel Beat­nik, I re­al­ize how ap­pro­pri­ate it is. The concierge hands me a set of metal keys, as op­posed to a plas­tic key card, and my room has nei­ther a TV nor a phone. Ho­tel Beat­nik also hosts po­etry read­ings and jazz shows, so this decor is in keep­ing with the East­ern Town­ships’ love for the an­ti­quated.

The next evening, at the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ob­servÉ­toiles stargaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, I’m handed an aug­mented-re­al­ity head­set and an app-equipped smart­phone for a pre­sen­ta­tion that con­cen­trates on a time be­fore “dig­i­tal detox” was a health-and-well­ness con­cept. I take my spot in the tiered 180seat gallery that has been built into the side of Mont Sut­ton at an el­e­va­tion of 365 me­tres. It re­minds me of an an­cient Greek am­phithe­atre, al­beit smaller and with more com­fort­able seats.

Au Di­able Vert is one of two Dark Sky Pre­serves in Que­bec (there are 22 in all of Canada), so there is no vis­i­ble ar­ti­fi­cial light, and nearby towns con­sciously work to re­duce their light pol­lu­tion. I can see the Mis­sisquoi River and Ver­mont’s Green Moun­tains but lit­tle else on the hori­zon.

“Ten thou­sand years ago, there was no ra­dio, no TV, no In­ter­net, no news­pa­pers, noth­ing,” be­gins as­tronomer and edi­tor of Astronomie-Québec Pierre Pa­que­tte. “So what did peo­ple do at the end of the day? They looked to the sky.”

We ori­ent our­selves by look­ing south to Saturn, which is one of the bright­est stars this evening. It sits right un­der a nearly full moon (de­scribed as a “wax­ing gib­bous” that will be 100 per cent vis­i­ble in a few days). The smart­phone projects 17th-cen­tury il­lus­tra­tions onto a trans­par­ent glass pane in my head­set, as Pa­que­tte uses a laser pointer to iso­late con­stel­la­tions while re­gal­ing us with 15,000-year-old le­gends.

An aug­mented draw­ing of the cen­taur Nes­sus ap­pears over Saturn and the stars that make up Sagit­tar­ius. Pa­que­tte tells us that the gods made him into a con­stel­la­tion out of pity af­ter he gave up his im­mor­tal­ity. Else­where we spy Coma Berenices, a hard-to-see clus­ter of stars named for Queen Berenice II of Egypt, who, in 243 BC, swore to the god­dess Aphrodite that she’d sac­ri­fice her long hair if her hus­band, Ptolemy, re­turned safely from war. “Peo­ple imag­ined all sorts of things while look­ing at the sky,” says Pa­que­tte. “It’s easy when you have noth­ing to do.”

As my trip un­folds with winer­ies, spa re­treats and all things low-tech, I ab­sorb Pa­que­tte’s words more and more. Driv­ing to the air­port, I’m al­most sad when I hear the ping of in­com­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions as I re­turn to mo­bile cov­er­age and re­al­ity.

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